India vs South Africa 1st Test: Preview, probable playing XI, pitch report, weather forecast, key stats
Retaliating ferociously to India's comprehensive victory in the second T20I, South Africa pulverized the hosts in the third game to level the hard-fought series. The focus now shifts towards the longest format of the game as Virat Kohli and company prepare to lock horns against the Proteas in the first Test, scheduled to begin on Wednesday, October 2 in Visakhapatnam.
The Proteas must be on cloud nine after the stupendous triumph in Bangalore but facing India in the purest format is a different kettle of fish. Donning the whites, India ride high on confidence after whitewashing West Indies away from home. India returned with a bunch of positives, with Hanuma Vihari being the most prominent one. Ushering India into the driving seat, Vihari's resolute hundred at the Sabina Park provided a determined lesson in the onerous art of batsmanship. Ajinkya Rahane, the bulwark of India's middle-order, too got the monkey off his back when he finally ended his two-year century drought in Antigua and would be hoping to replicate the performance in the upcoming clash.
India have been hit by a significant injury blow leading into the opening fixture as pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah has been ruled out for the entire series citing a stress fracture in the lower back and will be replaced by Umesh Yadav. Courtesy KL Rahul's frequent archetypal squibs, Rohit Sharma has been picked as a front-line opener for the Test series and would be desperate to grab the opportunity and cement his position at the flimsy opening slot.
South Africa were mercilessly bullied when they last toured the Indian subcontinent with the hapless batsmen floundering to negotiate the spin wizards Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja on rank turners. Considering India's efficiency with the ball in hand, South African batsmen will need to bat at the top of their potential if they are to stand any chance against a dynamic Indian outfit.
Moreover, the Proteas no longer enjoy the services of veteran Hashim Amla or AB de Villiers and hence, the experienced campaigners will have to step up and cushion the likes of youngsters Heinrich Klaasen, Theunis de Bruyn, and Zubayr Hamza. The spin department, bolstered by the inclusion of Senuran Muthusamy, will be under pressure to deliver in friendly conditions while the pace battery looks settled with Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Vernon Philander, and Anrich Nortje in the mix. The visitors would love to overwhelm the hosts and kick start their Test Championship campaign on a positive note.
The picturesque Visakhapatnam District Cricket Association Ground offers a batting paradise. Batsmen will relish driving through the line of the ball on the surface offering negligible assistance for the pacers. Spinners will play a crucial role later on as the track is expected to slow down as the game progresses.
Persistent showers have been forecast. Daytime temperatures are expected to be around 31°c and could plunge to around 26°c at night, with the humidity expected to be around 78%.
Likely Team Combinations
Rohit Sharma is all set to open the innings alongside Mayank Agrawal while the rest of the batting order should remain unchanged. Thanks to his impeccable control, India picked Ravindra Jadeja ahead of Kuldeep Yadav and Ravichandran Ashwin in the Tests against West Indies and hence, it would be interesting to see who gets the captain's vote between the trio. Though, Jadeja is the favourite considering his prowess with the bat. Bumrah's absence means Umesh Yadav is presumed to feature as the third seamer.
Probable Playing XI: Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agrawal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (captain), Ajinkya Rahane (vice-captain), Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami.
Fresh off a century against India A, Aiden Markram will partner Dean Elgar at the top of the order and the onus will be on the duo to lay the foundation upfront for the subsequent batsmen to capitalize on. Keshav Maharaj will lead the spin attack while off-break Dane Piedt might just get the nod ahead of left-arm tweaker Senuran Muthusamy to introduce variety.
Probable Playing XI:
Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Faf du Plessis (captain), Temba Bavuma (vice-captain), Quinton de Kock, Theunis de Bruyn/Heinrich Klassen, Keshav Maharaj, Dane Piedt, Lungi Ngidi, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada.
In 32 matches against each other, the Proteas have won 15 Tests. India emerged victorious on 11 occasions while 10 games ended in a stalemate.Modified 21 Dec 2019, 00:35 IST